Let me start by telling you that I am going into my second year of graduate school, and the first year was not stellar. I scraped by with barely-passing grades, I had incompletes in half of my classes, I alienated some of my colleagues with personal drama, and I had to take a term off for mental health reasons. After years of planning and preparation, I felt like I lost the race before I could even get out of the starting blocks. I was devastated.
Almost everything in me was telling me to transfer to a new school to start fresh, to quit with my Master’s degree instead of pursuing the PhD, to move home to live in my Mom’s basement and get a menial job, anything to avoid the reality of my situation. Then I realized something that I really want to share:
It is time to quit telling myself that it is too late.
It is too late for things to be perfect from start to finish, as I cannot go back and have a flawless graduate school experience, but I can start today and make the rest of it into what I want. And so can you.
Serving a Purpose?
I have come to believe that many of our behaviors that seem dysfunctional actually serve some kind of useful purpose. (After all, if something were completely bad, we are all smart enough to stop doing it.) I started thinking about what purpose this “too late” attitude was serving for me, and I realized it was a way to cushion myself from failure, a way to give less than my best and not have to answer to myself for it
For example, it is easier to say, “My advisor already thinks I am inept, there’s no need to prepare for this meeting,” or “I am already six months late completing this class and there is no way to get an A, so why push myself to do the best paper I can?” It is comparatively hard to put in my all, no excuses, yet still run the risk of failing.
Come With Me
I have a lot of friends who are hung up on the fact that we are rapidly approaching 30, and they should have their perfect career and perfect family before they are “that old.” You know what? You can tell yourself you are too old at 30 to make a change, or you can quit telling yourself it is too late with me.
I am ready to commit to this “quit” because I would absolutely not forgive myself if I give up on my dream without a fight. They are going to have to kick me out of the program to get me to leave. I started all this with the intention of making my little place in the world better, and I am not going to get derailed by one bad year. You shouldn’t either.
Deena writes a personal finance blog called Deena Dollars, where she discusses her journey out of debt, living frugally in San Francisco, and how mental health issues can impact finances. She is a sociology PhD student, loyal friend, and oenophile. You can check out her blog here and follower her on Twitter at @deenadollars.
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